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The Daily Tar Heel

Local Residents, Dogs Celebrate Opening of Dog Park

Town officials formally dedicated Chapel Hill's first dog park Saturday, though it will close today for a two-month renovation process.

The dedication marked the official opening of the dog park at Homestead Park off Airport Road, where dogs are free to run without leashes in one acre of fenced-in land.

Kathryn Spatz, director of Carrboro Recreation Department, said the dog park committee plans to hold a bigger, less formal event in the spring to advertise the new facility.

"Next spring, after we finish turf renovations, we're going to have a big event and invite veterinarians and the humane society," Spatz said. "But it'll be a casual event so that the public can really get involved."

Nancy Chao, a Chapel Hill resident who attended the ceremony, said though she does not have a dog, she came to the dedication with her husband and children in support of the facility.

"We wish that they had advertised more because we only learned about it (Friday)," Chao said. "It's nice that people without dogs can enjoy it here, too."

Chapel Hill Town Council member Flicka Bateman, a member of the dog park committee, began the ceremony with an introduction of the committee members, while keeping an eye on her dog, Rosy, a Rhodesian Ridgeback.

"I feel like the preacher that's afraid her kid's going to be the troublemaker," Bateman said.

Town Council Member Bill Strom, creator of the Chapel Hill Dog Park and chairman of the committee, spoke at the dedication alongside his wife and their two Australian shepherds, Lacey and Torie.

Meanwhile, Susan Spalt, health coordinator for Chapel Hill-Carrboro City Schools, tried to keep her Irish setter Lucy from snagging the dog biscuits attached to the official ribbon used in the ceremony.

"She's been to dog school, but whenever she gets out she just forgets it all," Spalt said.

Jill Grant, a local resident who brought her dog, Bailey, said she has used the park frequently even before Saturday's dedication.

"We come over a lot and it's especially good because (Bailey) is an only child," Grant said. "We see a lot of regulars, and this place is packed in the evenings."

The idea for a dog park arose in 1999, when conflict arose at Merritt's Pasture, a popular locale for residents to take their dogs. Some pro-leash law residents complained when local dog owners let their dogs run unleashed at the pasture.

At this point, Strom petitioned the council to create a committee to evaluate possible sites for an official dog park and to hold public forum to gather resident input.

"I had been to other dog parks in other states, and since I've always been a person with dogs, I enjoyed having the opportunity to participate," Strom said.

Spatz said compared to other dog parks in the area, the Homestead Park site has been very successful in terms of the time it took to create.

"We were lucky to find such a convenient place."

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